KPE fire: Emergency plan activated within minutes

We thank the public for their feedback (KPE tunnel fire led to confusion: Motorists; Poor show by emergency services, by Mr Sattar Bawany; Agencies need to be quicker off the mark, by Mr Marc Ha Tzen Wye; and Incident shows need for readily available fire extinguishers, by Dr George Wong Seow Choon; all published on Aug 31).

Last Tuesday, a vehicle fire occurred within the Kallang-Paya Lebar Expressway (KPE) tunnel in the direction of Tampines Expressway at around 7pm. This was detected very quickly by the Land Transport Authority's (LTA) operations control centre, and, by 7.02pm, the centre had triggered its emergency plan for fires within tunnels.

The tunnel ventilation fans were activated to expunge smoke while electronic messaging signboards, lane-use signs, and emergency radio broadcasts were activated to inform motorists of the incident.

Motorists inside the KPE tunnel were informed of the vehicle fire ahead of them via the tunnel messaging and broadcast system, and were advised to exit the tunnel immediately if they were able to, or to turn off their engines before evacuating via the nearest emergency exit, if they were not able to drive out of the tunnel.

Motorists who had not yet entered the KPE would have heard radio broadcasts advising them against entering the tunnel.

The LTA also dispatched emergency response personnel to the incident site to support the Singapore Civil Defence Force and Traffic Police.

The fire was put out at 7.09pm.

We thank the two public-spirited motorists who used fire extinguishers housed in nearby emergency cabinets to extinguish the fire.

These cabinets are located every 50m within the tunnel to facilitate quick response to any emergency.

Smoke from the fire was also expeditiously expunged by the tunnel's ventilation fans.

To ease the peak-hour traffic, one lane was reopened at 7.25pm after the road was confirmed to be safe for motorists' use.

At that point, the LTA Twitter page moved on to advise the public to avoid the affected lane when joining the traffic inside the KPE.

However, there was a lag in the LTA tunnel broadcast system, which continued to broadcast the message asking motorists to evacuate the tunnel, resulting in some initial confusion among motorists.

We apologise for the inconvenience caused.

We will endeavour to do better.

Chandrasekar Palanisamy

Group Director, Traffic and Road Operations

Land Transport Authority

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 04, 2017, with the headline 'KPE fire: Emergency plan activated within minutes'. Print Edition | Subscribe